If there was a web design and development Bible these would be the Ten Commandments…
1. Thou shalt not make me wait.
If you make me wait more than 10 seconds for your page to load you might as well replace it with a nice goodbye message. Go easy on the graphics, optimize their size, and make the focus of your site the content you provide.
2. Thou shalt not make me work.
If it takes me 5 minutes to locate your contact information (or worse to figure out what it is you’re selling) - I’m leaving. People visit websites to get information quickly. There’s a reason why we don’t use the yellow pages anymore or spend hours searching classified ads in the Sunday newspaper. The general public is lazy and impatient. Don’t make a user work to find the information they’re looking for on your site.
3. Thou shalt not kill me with flash overload.
Flash is a great tool. It can add visually pleasing elements to your site and make you look like you’re up-to-date with current technology. That said - I don’t want to hear the same techno song over and over while I browse your site or get a headache from the laser show on each of your pages. A short and crisp flash message gives off the impression of professionalism and keeps you from violating Commandment #10.
4. Thou shalt not provide me with useless, stale information.
Have you ever been looking at a site, reading the content, only to realize that it’s referring to a years old event as if it occurred yesterday? That might be the fastest way to get people to leave your page. Do not promote sales offers that have expired weeks ago on your site. Rich, updated content is the key to a visitor’s heart – not to mention one of the most important aspects of search engine rank.
5. Thou shalt not forget to offer me something.
I love when people give me things. It doesn’t much matter what it is, but if it’s free I have no reason not to take it. You should offer visitors to your site something useful right away. If your website promotes a service offer an e-book or a newsletter that highlights free tips and information relevant to your service. If you sell products offer special coupons or free offers for submitting an email address. In each case the goal is to build a targeted subscriber list filled with people you already know are interested in what you have to offer. You’d spend countless hours and thousands of dollars with direct marketing agencies to develop targeted marketing strategies of this caliber.
6. Thou shalt not frustrate me with unclear navigation.
This goes hand in hand with not making me work but it’s so important it deserves its own commandment. Navigation should be consistent. Don’t make me go searching for a way to go from page to page. Pick a horizontal or vertical layout for your primary links and stick to it. If you intend on using a second-tier navigation system as well for things like external links, news, and other detailed information make sure it is also consistent from page to page. A quick tip: Have someone you know browse your site and watch how they navigate it. It is an exercise that will provide you with valuable information on how easy your site is to navigate.
7. Thou shalt not look like an amateur.
Probably the greatest quote I have ever heard about website development was, “A website has the ability to make a million dollar business look like its run out of a basement – but it can also make a business that is run out of a basement look like a million dollar business. ” Which kind of site would you rather have?
Broken links, outrageous color schemes, and strange font-types and sizes will make you look like an amateur. But crisp, clean, professional design can make your home-based business look like a well oiled Fortune 500 power.
8. Thou shalt not believe in the “Field of Dreams” phenomenon.
Have you seen the movie Field of Dreams with Kevin Costner? If you haven’t I suggest you rent it, watch it, and then take the theme of “if you build it they will come” and throw it out the window immediately while planning your website. You can’t just build a website and hope that people will just show up and buy. Like the development of any business it takes time, effort, and (some) money. Plan an internet marketing strategy that separates you from your competition so that you can build traffic and as a result, your business.
9. Thou shalt not forget to plan for the future.
Once you build your site and promote it your business will change. How do you plan to evolve with it? Have a plan in place from the start with future goals. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while consulting for small businesses it’s that those who set specific targets have success (even when they fall short) while those who operate on a day by day schedule struggle. Set realistic goals and even some far-fetched ones. You’ll notice a difference in your progress when you have something to work toward.
…and the last and probably most important:
10. Thou shalt not think me to be an idiot.
Forget the gimmick lines like “guaranteed to make you millions” – “never have to work again”. They don’t work and they scream, “SCAM”. Be professional and earn the trust of your visitors. Offer them useful information that is reliable. The customers you want are the ones who keep coming back. Show them you’re worth their time and don’t undermine their intelligence. Gimmick businesses like that are plentiful on the Internet but if you plan to stick around awhile build your business the right way and you won’t need the scam strategies.
Follow these 10 Commandments when building and developing your website and you’ll be on the path to Internet business salvation. If you have any questions about this article or how to start planning for your site contact us today for a free consultation.
Derek Falvey is the owner of Acuvar Creative a full-service web design and development firm http://www.acuvar.com . He has helped numerous businesses from law firms to home builders (and even farm owners) create internet business strategies. Acuvar specializes in web site development and creative e-marketing as well as graphic deign, flash and multimedia presentation, and newsletter creation.